Fans turned out in force as a sell-out crowd packed the Cambridge Corn Exchange to see Dutch jazz singer Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw. Who, you ask? Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw, better known as Caro Emerald.
Now this isn’t trad jazz, it’s jazz pimped to the max, it’s jazz infused with swing, hip-hop, pop, Mambo & Samba and is packed with a level of energy that is infectious. Even more remarkable since Ms. Emerald is carrying a small gem which looked like it could have appeared at any time!
Before Caro, however, we were thoroughly entertained by a young Israeli singer, Irit Dekel. Irit is an extremely talented performer, well versed in multiple musical and acting genres. The barefoot Irit came on stage accompanied by just an acoustic guitar and accordion.
In March of this year Irit released ‘Hello’, an album of upbeat songs that have a very definite ‘Mediterranean’ feel about them and the songs from that album were the core of tonight’s performance. The highlight of the set, for me, was actually not an original song, but a cover of REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ which she sang to finish the short set. Irit has a bright vocal style and an uplifting, easygoing stage presence which turned out to be very different from what was to come later in the evening.
The stage was set with a projected Tahitian backdrop, the perfect illustration to accompany Caro as she continues her Emerald Island Tour.
The band come on to the stage, take their positions and open the set with ‘The Dark’ quickly followed by ‘Riviera Life’. Ms. Emerald, dressed in a figure-hugging black dress that showed off her little gem bump, took the time to chat with the audience, mentioning that the Corn Exchange reminded her of her favourite venue in Amsterdam before launching into ‘Back it Up’.
The crowd knew the word of just about every song and after a few more songs the first of the audience dancers was up and boogieing to ‘Stuck’ and then ‘Dr. Wanna Doo’. It was time for a break, Caro left the stage as the rest of the band performed ‘Tahitian Flies’ a lively instrumental that gave Caro the chance to change and the audience the chance to breathe. She returns dressed in emerald green with a flower in her hair to give us ‘Tahitian Skies’, a somewhat downbeat song compared to what had already gone. Oddly though there were times when the song reminded me of the Bonzo’s ‘Hunting Tigers Out in India’, I’m not sure what it was, maybe the tom-toms! The band moved on to a smoother song, ‘Ghost of You’ with its spooky sounding keyboards and a short Shadows-esque passage of guitar which gave way to the Addams Family’s clavichord, a real mix of sounds and styles. Caro moves on from the Bonzo’s and the Addams Family to Spaghetti Western with ‘Quicksand’ and it’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly vibe. After mentioning the latest EP, ‘Emerald Island’, we get some ska with ‘Never, Ever’ before the second instrumental of the night, ‘Caravan’.
There seems to be no stopping the fabulous Miss Emerald as she dances around the stage while the number of dancing audience members creeps up. Three songs from ‘Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor’ follow before what I thought was the best song of the night, ‘Liquid Lunch’ a brilliant up-beat swinger of a song. By now the band had been introduced, played their little solo’s as we, sadly, get to the last song of the main set-list, ‘That Man’. If you could sit still through any of this then there really must be something wrong with you….seriously! The crowd were already on their feet, dancing, singing, clapping – this was the entire crowd, every single one of them that I could see, the poor security people didn’t know whether to intervene – they didn’t!
The band leave the stage, the band come back on stage, it’s encore time. The crowd were very well behaved for ‘Nature Boy’ but that changed in the blink of an eye as Caro got into ‘A Night Like This’ possibly her most popular song. Again the crowd stood, danced, clapped and sang along, a brilliant song by a brilliant singer. ‘Whachugot’ closed the show and the audience went bonkers.
This was one of the most entertaining shows I’ve been to in a long time, the variety of the music was quite refreshing. One thing is for sure when Miss Emerald’s little gem makes its appearance it’s going to come out dancing and if you go to one of her shows you will too.
Words and photographs: Reg Richardson (RockStarsRising: RSR-Photography)